Originally from: Letters from Linden
Date: February 2011
MORE ICE HOUSE MEMORIES
Last summer, Jane Maddox Khaiyer shared some memories that her mother, Elsie Bowen Hatfield Maddox, wrote of her grandparents’ ice house. These thoughts prompted John A Prouty to share his recollections with us. Coincidentally, it appears that the neighbor he mentions, Mr Hatfield, is Elsie’s father.
“As a longtime local history enthusiast, I have enjoyed the bits of old-time information that appear in your publication. The recent image of the ice house triggered memories of ice skating and of ice houses. When I was a boy, my Uncle Benny lived next to us on the good old unpolluted Patuxent River. We had a nice little pond, and Uncle Benny had the ice house. It was a hole dug in sandy ground, very close to the local dirt road, with good shade from several paradise trees after noon. It was about eight feet deep and eight feet wide, and the interior was lined with mostly Virginia pine and some white oak slabs. It had a homemade ladder and an A-line roof with wooden shingles. Straw provided insulation.”
“My father and Mr. Hatfield, a neighbor, would wait until there was about six inches of clear ice, usually in February. Dad would bring our team and wagon alongside the pond and, using the same crosscut saw we used for winter wood, cut the ice in big slabs. They slid the ice up 4x4s onto the wagon, then took it to the ice house, which was adjacent to the road. After about three or four loads, the ice house was filled. More straw was placed amongst the ice blocks and laid on top.”
“We used some in our icebox, but my mother, the nurse, did not want us to eat it. In the summer, we made ice cream in an old hand crank ice cream maker. We stored watermelons, to be brought up the ladder in July and August for the hot and thirsty tobacco harvesters. I honestly had to have help getting those watermelons up the ladder, but it was one of the chores that country boys had in the ‘good old days.’”
In last August’s Letters from Linden, we also featured a photo of an ice house. We subsequently learned that it was the ice house at “Old Field” in Prince Frederick. Betty Briscoe wrote in her Know Your County column that “it hadn’t been used for years. So it was soon moved to the meadow, raised and a barn was constructed, using . . . the roof and upper building [of the ice house].” It appears that the timeframe was around the 1930s.
While we shiver against the cold this month, perhaps we can warm up a bit by thinking of the hot summer months and the delight that ice cream and cold watermelons from the ice house would bring!
SOURCES: Briscoe, Betty. “Know Your County, Out Buildings Tell Us Of The Past,”
The Calvert Independent, date unknown, but around 1976. Prouty, John A. Letter to CCHS, 26 Sep 2010.